Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Push Girls" episode 1: a minireview

Push Girls graphic from Sundance Channel webpage
Wheelchair graphic from "Push Girls" webpage
So there's been some hype in the disability community online about a new reality TV show coming out on the Sundance Channel called "Push Girls."  The basic premise of the show is to follow four Los Angeles women with spinal cord injuries (SCI) who use wheelchairs.  A lot of folks in the activist community were worried about how these women were going to be portrayed (as was I).  Well, they released the first episode on ITunes for free download yesterday and I decided to give it a test-run.  Besides, there's a part of me that enjoys reality TV, although I haven't indulged in it in the last five or so years aside from "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With The Stars."  Also, one of the women on the show is a hip hop dancer, and I'm just aching to see more PwD's dancing on tv ("Glee"...I'm glaring at you right now.  Glaring intensely).

First, my initial concerns.  These are all conventionally attractive women, all of them thin, most of whom are white.  All four of them have spinal cord injuries, which is a very specific population of wheelchair users.  They are all shown living in nice homes in Los Angeles, which demonstrates a specific socioeconomic status (one that many people with disabilities do not have access to for a variety of reasons).  It feels like they're aiming for the "we're just like you, except we use wheelchairs" narrative for the show.

The actual show starts out like most reality shows and introduces the "real people" being featured.  Tiphany, Auti, Angela, and Mia are four women living in LA who have been friends with each other for five or more years.  The show introduces each woman and almost immediately dives into her personal story as to how she became injured with a spinal cord injury (all but one were from car accidents).  This is a pretty standard narrative for talking about PwD's in mainstream media, meaning that before we really get to know anything about these women's lives, interests, or personalities, we find out how these people were injured. 

We also find out pretty quickly that all but one of these women are paraplegic from their injuries, with Angela a quad.  It felt like a good majority of the show was spent highlighting Angela's struggles while trying to make her seem as "normal" as possible, repeatedly showing her doing her makeup for the audience (she is a model, so this isn't too surprising, but still felt like an excessive demonstration of "normal" feminine behavior).  Her video segments had this interesting push and pull between showing either how her life is different because of her impairment or how "normal" her life is despite impairment.

All in all, I think I'm going to keep following this show...but I think it's partly do to a continued frustration with the only other media portrayals of disability that I see (mostly "Glee" to be honest....which is pretty much a trainwreck for most anything related to diversity).  I probably won't pay ITunes for the privilege of watching it though, so I'll have to see if Hulu or Netflix will have it.

1 comment:

  1. I checked, they do have it on Hulu.